In between their engagement and their wedding, fuelled by a nest-building urge, Tom and Carmen bought a ruined house in Atalbeitar in 2003. At that time both were living in Edinburgh (where they still maintain a base), engaged in its thriving arts scene. Tom was working as a musician (voice, violin, guitar and percussion) and a bespoke joiner, whilst Carmen was making her way as a Visual Artist; painting, sculpting with metal, and decorating Festivals. Skills that came in handy for the project ahead. Carmen took on the role of building and stone masonry, while Tom focused on the carpentry.
“It was a huge challenge. Neither of us had done any building work before and half the house was a crumbling, roofless pile of rubble. We learnt on the job, employing advice and labour from the village itself, as has always been the way there; the secrets and tricks of its vernacular architecture reside with the locals whose ancestors built and maintained these houses.”
It was a winter project, a way of escaping the dreich Scottish winters and maintaining a connection to Spanish culture (Carmen was brought up in the coast of Granada), whilst summers were spent working in their respective fields.
Due to injuries sustained in a car accident, metal sculpting became too painful, and from 2005 Carmen focused her creativity on mixed media painting, creating a style that has undoubtedly been influenced by her experiences restoring Casa Aloe. Using cement and lime, pigments and wax, her paintings have often been described as sculptural. As well as dotted throughout the house, you can explore her work here (https://carmencarmeli.com/) and follow her on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/carmencarmely/).
Tom’s main musical project for many years was the founding and development of the theatrical fanfare band “Orkestra Del Sol” (www.orkestradelsol.co.uk) which sadly hung up its boots in 2017 after 14 amazing years. In those years 2 memorable residencies in Atalbeitar gave birth to these two fun videos: Spanish Holiday Movie in 2007 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rbeo-FJJDlo) and The Return of the Comeback in 2014 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCwdKMnxGwg), both of which encapsulate some of the magic of the village.
Currently he is developing work as a solo artist under the name ATOM (atommusic.scot). Whilst in Atalbeitar he plays Celtic music with The Wild Mice (https://www.facebook.com/thewildmice/) and in Scotland he plays Brazilian Forro music with Bristol Branch (http://wherestheone.co.uk/bristol-branch.html)
In addition to our creative work on the house and our art, we are blessed to be parents to 2 delicious daughters, our most important creative project of all!